I’ve seen dozens upon dozens — perhaps hundreds — of comments over the years on social media and elsewhere about how climate change can be dismissed as complete bunk because it’s a religion or cult.
Not only on social media, but news articles like this:
There are two ways of trying to address this comparison. The first is to attempt to show that Climate Change is not a religion as defined by the skeptic. Without exception this is the mode I’ve witnessed. In the end, at best the arguments end in a stalemate because “religion” is invariably used to pejoratively describe in the most broad terms every argument that ignores scientific facts or principles. You will always find people on any given topic who ignore science and stretch the truth (no matter how scientifically sound the basis is), thus, you are destined to come across as unprincipled and hypocritical because the skeptic can always find many examples where “climate change believers” are behaving like so called “religious zealots”.
The second approach is to discuss why religion is not at odds or in competition with science, but rather, a separate subject.
It is understandable why no one wants to touch this hot potato. When you have someone from the secular right — say, like Fox New’s Greg Gutfeld — lay out the case for climate change being a religion, the religious who agree that climate change is a hoax (for lack of a better phrase) will shut up because they agree with his conclusion. The religious who disagree on climate change will shut up because it changes the subject at hand to religion, and that doesn’t help solve the climate change debate. Finally, the non-religious who disagree will try approach #1, and lose the argument because a religion is simply defined as any group of people who have idiots in their mix using faulty arguments, which is every group of people ever, including those who are concerned about climate change.
Let’s look at a typical example to see why this comparison falls apart.
The article starts with a quote from the philosopher and scientist Blaise Pascal.
Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction.
Atheists love to use this quote to show that the religious are mindless irrationalists, which is ironic to say the least because one needs to be mindlessly irrational to interpret Pascal as anti-religious. At best, it’s a sloppy translation from French to English and stripped of all context, and at worst it’s deliberate misrepresentation of the Pascal’s theology.
Anyone vaguely familiar with philosophy has heard of Pascal’s Wager, which posits that it even if you don’t believe that God exists, you should behave as if he does. There is a similar argument about climate change: that we should behave as if it is real even if it isn’t. I suppose this is why the author used a Pascal quote, but far from rejecting religion, Blaise Pascal wrote in deference of Christianity. He certainly had his disagreements with the Catholic church, but that doesn’t make him irreligious.
There are various definitions of religion, none of which are as broad as the one climate change skeptics use. Here are some examples:
“Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, just as it is the spirit of a spiritless situation. It is the opiate of the people.” ~ Karl Marx
“Pure religion and undefiled before God the Father is this: To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.”
~James 1:27, New Testament
“Religion is to do right. It is to love, it is to serve, it is to think, it is to be humble.”
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
“Religion itself is nothing else but Love to God and Man. He that lives in Love lives in God, says the Beloved Disciple: And to be sure a Man can live no where better.” ~ William Penn
“Religion is something left over from the infancy of our intelligence; it will fade away as we adopt reason and science as our guidelines.” ~ Bertrand Russell
“A religion is a unified system of beliefs and practices relative to sacred things, that is to say, things set apart and forbidden—beliefs and practices which unite into one single moral community called a Church, all those who adhere to them.” ~ Emile Durkheim
Perhaps it’s the case that labeling climate change a religion is an attempt to appeal to the Marxists (since anthropogenic climate change is often cast as repackaged Marxism by skeptics). Even if it is, refuting one lie with another doesn’t help move us toward the truth.
The article continues…
Faith is a belief held without evidence.
This is wrong. While there are some religious people who believe this, it’s not the dominant theological view. Most theological schools of thought state that faith and science are not in conflict, and that you should not just mindlessly believe what you’re told.
Most religions seek to grow by means of proselytism. Science does not seek or need converts.
This is not true. I see people proselytizing science all the time. In all likelihood, I see it proselytized more than religion. In either case, isn’t proselytizing a good thing? I mean, shouldn’t you share your understanding of climate change with others who believe differently on the topic if you think their beliefs are harmful? ?That’s certainly what climate change skeptics are doing all over the planet from Tony Heller to Patrick Moore to Alex Epstein. Does the author think these folks should stop spreading their message against climate change hysteria?
Anyway, the article goes on and on with one erroneous trope after another, all the while failing to realize that many of the traits you find with religion are things you find in non-religious ideologies as well, maybe in even higher numbers.
As best I can figure, the author defines religion as any thinking that mindlessly believes what it’s told without evidence, whether religious/ spiritual in nature or not. Why not just say “the theory is wrong because of such-and-such”? Saying that it’s a religion, therefore it’s bunk is asking us to mindlessly believe without evidence that religion is false.
There is certainly many over-the-top claims and failed predictions made by climate change proponents, but simply dismissing the entire theory as a religious cult while misrepresenting religion in the process is a very bad way to get to the truth of the matter.
When you define religion as everything bad, and then find bad reasoning and methods elsewhere, you are supposed to label that thing as religious according to this thinking. Both climate change believers and skeptics lie and exaggerate about climate change, so you are following a religion no matter which position you take.